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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Missouri Grassroots Manager Tim Freeman led a roundtable discussion Friday on cancer funding at the Eldon Recreation Center. Photo by Danisha Hogue / News Tribune.

Sen. Roy Blunt made a few rounds Friday morning in Mid-Missouri, meeting with constituents about cancer research and small businesses.

In Eldon, community members gathered for a roundtable discussion on funding cancer research on a national level.

District representatives from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network made their regular request of $2.5 billion in federal funding.

"With the $2 million that's already on the House side, if we could ask if we could have the $2.5 billion like we've been getting the last few years, that would make it $41.6 billion that would be funding cancer research," ACS CAN ambassador Mark Runyan said.

Without funds supporting the researchers, officials said they could lose key players in the fight.

When Tim Freeman, Missouri grassroots manager, asked about a potential timeline on the Senate budget, Blunt said he could not provide specifics.

"I wish I could give you more specific information," Blunt said. "I intend to continue to do what we've done on health research, and we'll figure out some way to do that."

He later told the News Tribune he expects the Senate numbers to be bigger overall than the growth in the House version of the budget.

Blunt is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. In December, $6.14 billion was approved for the National Cancer Institute.

More than a decade ago, the committee eliminated 32 programs to provide $2 million to the National Institutes for Health, he said. Now, the task is to establish priorities.

"It's probably important, particularly in Missouri, to understand this money just doesn't show up," Blunt said. "You have to figure out ways to make a decision on what's the top priority and what's something that would have been good to do but just doesn't quite reach the available resources to do it."

Community members and officials shared how the illness has impacted their families. Many expressed gratitude for the support of Blunt, who is a survivor himself.

Brad Loos is the assistant athletic director at University of Missouri. His 9-year-old daughter is a cancer survivor.

"Five, six, seven years ago, there wouldn't have been any chance for her," Loos said. "Because of the funding that you provided, she has a chance of life, and she's thriving now because of it."

According to research facts from ACS, 35,480 estimated new cancer diagnoses were made this year in the state.

Small businesses

A separate gathering at Advanced Chimney in Jamestown focused on small businesses and creating jobs. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December 2017, was supported by Sen. Blunt.

In response to critics who claim that middle class families and individuals haven't benefited from the cuts, Blunt told the News Tribune they need to take another look.

"I think if they look at their paychecks, they'll find out that they have," Blunt said. "There's certainly not a lot of media coverage on how much a difference it made last year, when you add more dollars to every paycheck than you've ever had before. Also it's clear that for the first time in a long time, we had substantial pay increases at the lower end and the middle of the income groups, rather than the top end of the income groups. I think it was in the range of about 5 percent last year, which is the biggest increase in well over a decade."

Some tax cut critics have said the cut to federal revenues has increased the national deficit.

But, Blunt said: "I don't think so. I think people that say that don't understand the impact of a growing economy. You can have more federal income at lower tax rates, if those rates help grow an economy."

Blunt said the tax cuts actually have helped with economic growth.

"I think the tax cuts, and a better regulatory environment, have done a lot to produce an economy where we're setting some records that — in many cases — it's the first time in 40 or 50 years that unemployment's been as low as it is now," Blunt said, "and jobs available have exceeded the number of people looking for jobs. Ever."

While discussing business growth, Advanced Chimney operations manager Omie Johnson mentioned how Advanced Chimney certified two apprentices through the Moniteau County Regional Economic Development Council.

Business owner Dale Deraps and Johnson told Blunt how new Environmental Protection Agency regulations could cripple their business.

"If you want to save the planet, it's proven what you need to do is plant trees and burn wood," Deraps said.

He added the EPA regulations have decreased the amount of distributors and made it difficult to sell certain products.

After May 2020, Johnson said their current stock of wood stoves would be obsolete and bring at least a $1.5 million in fines if the business does not comply with new regulations.

"We're a small business; we have no means to pay that kind of money," Johnson said.

Blunt said the EPA is better than it was five years ago; however, he plans to look into specifics.

"This could be a place where they haven't really had a chance to look at," Blunt said.

Resident Linda Imhoff said it's always good to see politicians in the area.

"He always comes to the small areas of the state and not just the big cities and listens to the rural people," Imhoff said. "He was raised on a farm and knows what its like to live in a rural area.

On Friday afternoon, Blunt also had stops planned for Freeburg and Belle to discuss jobs and the economy.

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